So, I have a workshop this weekend that I have never taught before. I can’t really go into too many details because I know some participants read my blog. In order for this curriculum to be successful, it needs to be mysterious and scary:). The topic of the workshop is dealing with trial stress or creating the best Trial Stress State for yourself. The topic was prompted when I observed several students, some new to agility others more experiencd, struggling while dealing with the stressors of trialing their dogs.
I am talking about maintaining the ability to make key decisions that will help develop the agility dog to their full potential. Let me give you an example. A fairly experience student was bringing out their young dog for the first time. The dog was ready but the team was not. The dog was super fast and very excited. However her handler was so over aroused, she was unable to make key decisions in the midst of their 30 second runs. At one point the dog left a set of weave poles at pole 7. Yes leaving 5 poles without weaving. As a handler what should you do? Well what would you do if it happened at home? Of course, you would stop, alter the dog’s state (allow the dog to focus on you) and repeat the obstacle presenting the same handling challenge that caused the dog to pop out in the first time. I may repeat that 3 times and if the dog continues to fail I will chalk it up to “more foundation needed” and reduce the challenge so the young dog can be successful (however this would not be how I would handle the situation for a more experienced dog).
This handler just went on to finish the course without hesitiation. When I questioned her decision she did not even realize the dog had left the poles, let alone left 5 poles early! As a matter of fact, she got quite belligerent and told me I was “wrong” that the dog had completed all 12 poles. This is a handler in an over aroused Trial Stress State. The only solution was to ask her to watch her video (which luckily she had). This is not an uncommon scenario and is a big reason why a well trained, well prepared agility dog learns to perform completely different at home then they do in the ring.
So this weekend will be about facing stressors (that part will be fun for me, got lots of great ideas . . . cue the melodramtic music:)).
We will do course work, class room work focusing on mental prep and we will create a plan of action for each individual dog and handler team. In the end, my plan is for the weekend is to have more laughs then tears, but to effectively bring people to a level where key, spur-of-the-moment trial decisions, can be made without hesitation.
Today I am grateful for the unseasonably warm weather we are getting here in Canada. Wow. Stay tuned next week, I have lots to roll out!